Information is a vital resource for an immigrant successfully settling into their new country. But getting access to services, resources, and securing meaningful employment, are all challenges many immigrants face around the world. A country as multicultural as Canada knows this fact.
To be specific about what information or services immigrants may need, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) reached out to Faculty of Information, University of Toronto Professor, Nadia Caidi, who has conducted strategic research on immigrant information practices, and labor market integration. Her research looks at the role information sources (such as service agencies and newcomer centres), institutions and technology play in immigrant and refugees’ experiences.
Prof. Caidi discusses information practices within immigrant communities in the context of an interview with TRIEC, which highlighted her research and expertise.
After the Toronto City Summit in 2002, challenges facing immigrant communities presented itself as an important and under recognized area of concern, specifically the emphasis on how to integrate immigrant skills into the labour market.
Caidi articulates that her foray into this research area started with the examination of existing definitions of “social inclusion” and the lack of importance placed on access to information within them. She set to explore further the link between access to meaningful information and people’s ability to deal with situations they encounter in their daily lives. For Prof. Caidi and her team, recognizing access to information as a helpful tool toward social inclusion was key. Her seminal articles on this topic have been cited over 200 times, according to Google Scholar.
It is “important to help immigrants become information literate in their new environment, as it increases their chance of finding meaningful employment, which contributes to their overall well-being,” she says. Nadia adds that social inclusion is a two-way street and, as such, it is important to assist employers in understanding what newcomers bring with them, and emphasize collaborative learning between skilled immigrant workers and employers.
One key trend Prof. Caidi noticed in her research, was how important access to information is to immigrants and refugees seeking to increase their social capital, which is often lacking especially for individuals and communities in vulnerable positions upon arriving in their adoptive country.
“They’re often put in a vulnerable position which can lead to feelings of marginalization or exclusion,” she points out. Prof. Caidi hopes that access to information for these populations can increase their social capital and reduce potential for marginalization and exclusion.
Another trend her research team noticed was that immigrants learn as they seek information. “When immigrants seek information online in a foreign language, we find that they develop both their expressive language skills through creating queries, and their receptive skills through reading and interpreting results and documents.” Newcomers to Canada are also increasingly producing their own content and finding creative ways to bridge the cultural gap. A better understanding of these strategies can serve agencies like the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), which brings together leaders and thinkers from around the GTA to fully engage and integrate the contributions of skilled immigrants within the community.
Prof. Caidi also serves on Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Orientation to Canada Advisory Committee.